Friday, August 24, 2018

Book Review: 'Ghost Country (Catalyst Book 3)' by J.K. Franks

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts." – Winston Churchill

Georgia author JK Franks specializes his writing skills on the post-apocalyptic genre with four novels published to date – CATALYST DOWNWARD CYCLE, KINGDOMS OF SORROW, AMERICAN EXODUS, and now GHOST COUNTRY- Catalyst Book 3. According to Franks, “Really interesting things happen to people when it all goes sideways. Good dystopian stories just peel away all pretenses of civilized behavior and societal norms. What’s left when you expose all that is just rich characters with raw human needs and wants. This provides an opportunity for a writer to really tell an honest story.” 

JK has stated directly to us about this series – a touch that indicates that an author not only cares about the structure and detail of the novel, but also the reader’s response and willingness to inhabit the world we are about to enter. ‘When I was developing the Catalyst series, the idea of a connected novella wasn’t part of the plan. That changed when I was asked a relatively simple question. “What would you do to get home if the CME happened, and you were a thousand miles from home?” From that, this story was born. At its heart, it is a simple “get home” journey, but embedded in it are clues to more of the Catalyst stories. I have written this in-between writing book one, two and now book three, so this book is influenced by all of those but is a standalone story. Fans of the series will see threads from the other books, and in some cases, rather similar situations dealt with in a very different manner. This story takes place essentially during the same time period as the first book—Downward Cycle. Revisiting the aftermath of that disaster I first wrote of several years ago was more fun than I probably should admit. It was also nice to explore the struggle to survive from a different point of view as well as visit scenes we may have only glimpsed in the earlier books.’

GHOST COUNTRY is a fine book, one of the best CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) post apocalyptic this reader has read. Not only is the prose dignified but the character development is so keen that we the reader can almost see and feel the characters as they struggle to return to a ‘place’ that will mean normalcy or home. 

JK summarizes the plot well – ‘Since the solar superstorm and almost two years ago, the Gulf Coast town of Harris Springs, Mississippi has suffered from gang attacks, famine, hurricanes and battled a crusading army of religious zealots. Now, they face their greatest challenge. Outsmarting a tyrannical President and escaping an approaching pandemic. Scott Montgomery and his community sheltered in an abandoned cruise ship know their time is running out. Despite the relative calm they enjoy, they are aware of the horrors all around them. This period of relative stability doesn’t last long. As the zombie-like pandemic spreads, genetic engineering becomes the last hope of salvation. The new President and her rogue government have other ideas including internment camps full of imprisoned American citizens where bio-warfare weapons are being tested. What’s left of the U.S. military leaders are beginning to come to grips with the facts of America being ripped apart at the seams. They must act to give the remaining population any chance for survival. Scott and his friends come up with a plan to escape the corrupt regime and the approaching hordes of infected. Those plans go awry when one of their own is kidnapped. Scott and a team of Special Forces must go head-to-head with the enemy in one of the most secret bases in the world. The rescue mission shows every likelihood of turning into an epic battle. One that may spell the end of humanity. This third book in the series immerses readers once more in the story of our nation’s struggle to rebuild itself after a CME wipes out all electricity and plunges the country into darkness, starvation, and chaos.’

After reading this book the first word that come to mind is Splendid! Writing of this order is too rarely encountered and even for those who usually avoid post-apocalyptic stories, this one is so well conceived and written that it supersedes genre and is simply fine writing. And the quiet message of survival in a world that seems shattered is most appropriate at this time ….! 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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